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mother neglecting child

Oct 012010

AN Adelaide mother whose children were found starved, infested with scabies and suffering from various life-threatening diseases has been sentenced to six years’ jail.

In sentencing today, Supreme Court Justice Christopher Kourakis labelled the woman’s crimes “abhorrent”.

“I have struggled to understand how and why you let the health of your children slip away before your very eyes,” Justice Kourakis said.

“You allowed your children to be reduced to little more than a scheme to harvest benefits.

“You came perilously close to causing the death of your child. It is not alleged you intended to harm your children, but you were recklessly indifferent”.

He said the woman, who cannot be named for legal reasons, neglected her children at a northern-suburbs house “not fit for human habitation” in 2008.

“During the five months (she spent at the house) you failed to provide adequate food, shelter and medical attention for your children.

“They (the children) were permitted to eat little more than left-over fish and chips and noodles”.

He said the “starving” and “emaciated’ children were at times choked if they tried to take food not given to them.

He also said the children were forced to stand with their hands over their heads for long periods and that their mother did nothing to prevent other children in the house from assaulting them.

The degree of the woman’s neglect was exposed when she took her five-year-old boy, who weighed just 14.6kg, to the Lyell McEwin hospital because he was “limp and floppy”.

He was suffering malnutrition and scabies, had a body temperature of 26C, had severe hypothermia, and had recently suffered a severe head injury.

Authorities then raided the woman’s house and found her other children were showing similar signs of abuse.

She was charged with three aggravated counts of creating a risk of serious harm and two aggravated counts of endangering life.

Justice Kourakis said his sentence must reflect the community’s “abhorrence” at such crimes towards children.

“Where the parental instinct is not in itself enough to provide a deterrent, the law must fill the vacuum,” he said.

He sentenced the woman to six years’ jail and set a non-parole period of three years and three months.

Ken McGregor

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Sep 062010

Carlotta Brett-PierceA New York mother beat her malnourished daughter, four, with a belt and force-fed her sleeping pills, a Brooklyn court was told yesterday.

Carlotta Brett-Pierce, who was arrested after her daughter Marchella Pierce was found dead weighing just 15lbs, allegedly gave the child bloody beatings after she crept out of bed at night for food. 

On September 1, the day before Marchella’s death, an enraged Brett-Pierce tied her daughter to her cot with a length of twine after she made a mess while getting a late-night snack, according to prosecutor Tracy Downing.

Marchella had bruises all over her body which were ’caused by blunt force’, the court heard.

It is also alleged Brett-Pierce force-fed the four-year-old sleeping pills to halt her ‘wild’ behaviour.

A witness is said to have told police that Brett-Pierce beat her weak and helpless daughter ‘repeatedly’. 

A plastic video case stained with blood was found at Brett-Pierce’s squalid Brooklyn apartment, the court heard. 

Brett-Pierce, 30, faces charges including assault and endangering the welfare of the child. 

If Marchella’s death is ruled a homicide, Brett-Pierce could face murder charges. 

Prosecutor Tracey Downing said: ‘The mother tied up the child because she would get up in the night and eat food… and make a mess.’

Pierce, who smiled at her mother when she was led into the courtroom, insists she is innocent.

Yesterday she told reporters: ‘I did not kill my baby!’

Brett-Pierce said she had checked on her daughter at 4am and she had been okay.

She found her ‘unresponsive and with cold hands’ at 6.30am and tried to revive her, calling 911 after 45 minutes.

Marchella’s father, Tyrone Pierce, said he found out about his daughter’s death at around 9am.

He added that she had been born prematurely, weighing just 1lb 4.6oz, and had been in four hospitals since her birth.

He said: ‘My sister told me that my daughter had passed and I rushed over there. I tried to go into the building to see what was going on. The officers grabbed me and told me I had to come with them.’

Court-appointed defence lawyer George Sheinberg said his client was ‘not charged with homicide. 

‘The autopsy did not indicate any kind of trauma… at this point it is extremely inconclusive’.

Brett-Pierce did not speak in court yesterday. She was bailed for $300,000 and is due back on September 9. Read more:

Feb 032010

A MOE mother who drank litres of alcohol a day got her five-year-old son so drunk he could barely speak or stand up, a court heard.

The boy was taken to hospital by ambulance with a blood alcohol content of .09 after she gave him four or five shots of home brew which was later found to be 44 per cent ethanol.

Kylie Eastwood told police she “just wanted to have a drink with her son because he likes his alcohol”, the Latrobe Valley Magistrates’ Court at Morwell was told.

Should this mother have been jailed? Join the debate in the comments below

Eastwood, 33, was spared jail despite breaching two previous suspended sentences and a call by police for her to be jailed.

Magistrate Clive Alsop gave her a five-month prison sentence, wholly suspended for two years, and told her she was on her last chance.

The court was told that when Eastwood gave her son grappa in July, 2008, she was already on a suspended sentence after being convicted five months earlier of leaving her three children under 10 home alone for several hours while she went drinking with a friend.

She had also breached a suspended sentence imposed in 2005 for refusing a breath test and driving while disqualified.

Eastwood, who has a five-month-old daughter, pleaded guilty to reckless conduct endangering serious injury, which carries a maximum of five years’ jail, and failing to protect a child from harm, which has a maximum of 12 months.

Mr Alsop warned her of the consequences if she returned to court in future.

“You know now, because you’ve had a lot of practice, what a suspended sentence means,” he told Eastwood.

“I don’t have to tell you what’s going to happen if you come back at some stage in the future having done anything which would adversely affect the welfare of your children”.

Mr Also said several changes in Eastwood’s life, but principally her abstinence since last September, amounted to exceptional circumstances that warranted a suspended sentence.

There had been an enormous change in her previously massive alcohol consumption, she had strong supports in place and had demonstrated in recent months the ability to keep her alcohol problem under control.

He said he also had to take into account the impact on her children if she was jailed.

Mr Alsop took the opportunity to accuse politicians of interfering in the business of the courts.

He said Victorian politicians were “apparently gearing up to do certain things towards the end of the year”, which could include the removal of suspended sentences.

He said it would be “a gross invasion of judicial independence” if the law allowing judges and magistrates to impose suspended sentences was changed.

Police prosecutor Dale Henry had urged the magistrate to impose an immediate sentence of 12-18 months’ imprisonment and said a minimum non-parole period of six months to serve would be appropriate.

Sen-Constable Henry said suspended sentences were meant to be a last chance for an offender to lead a law-abiding life, but Eastwood had “had her two last chances”.

“Denunciation, as a specific deterrent, should take precedence over rehabilitation in this case,” he told Mr Alsop.

“The defendant needs to be sent a message that the court will not tolerate repeated drunken, reckless behaviour that put young children at risk of harm.

“The community must be sent a message that child abuse is not tolerated in any way, shape or form”.

Sen-Constable Henry said making exceptional progress in changing a lifestyle was not an exceptional circumstance in relation to sentencing.

Defence barrister John Verhoeven said it would be unjust to reinstate Eastwood’s previous suspended sentence because exceptional circumstances had arisen since it was imposed.

Mr Verhoeven said Eastwood had consumed alcohol only once in the 13 months since discovering she was pregnant and was “clearly in the process of overcoming what was a chronic alcohol situation”.

He said there was no denying the facts of the case were “horrific, absolutely horrendous” and she had a shocking history in relation to alcohol and caring for children.

But she was now receiving counselling and support at a women’s refuge and had done a terrific job of addressing her problems.

He told the court Eastwood, who was now living west of Melbourne, was looking after her youngest child, a five-month-old daughter from a relationship which had now ended with a 70-year-old man.

A prosecution summary read to the court before the case was adjourned last October said Eastwood’s five-year-old son was having difficulty walking and speaking when ambulance officers were called to her home in Moe by the children’s father.

Police who were called said Eastwood was having trouble walking and her speech was slurred. Her son was unable to speak to police and “kept making grunting noises”.

Sep 132009

Child abuse is rising dramatically in Australia, according to the first in-depth study to be released on the issue in a decade.

Data shows cases of abuse against children rose more than 50 per cent between 2006 and 2008.

In the 37 per cent of cases in which a parent was the perpetrator, mothers were responsible for 73 per cent of abuse cases while fathers were the cause of 27 per cent.

The data, the first of its kind to emerge since 1996 and obtained under Freedom of Information (FoI) laws, was compiled by the Western Australia Department of Child Protection.

The figures present a disturbing snapshot of soaring child abuse and its perpetrators. Experts say the data can accurately be applied across Australia.

Applications under FoI for similar data from all other states were refused.

The statistics come as the Federal Government has signalled it may roll back the “shared parenting” amendments to the Family Law Act, brought in under the Howard government to give fathers greater access to their children in custody battles.

The data shows fathers are most responsible for sex abuse against children – accounting for more than 85 per cent of cases.

But mothers carry out more than 65 per cent of cases of emotional and psychological abuse and about 53 per cent of physical abuse. They are also responsible for about 93 per cent of cases of neglect.

There were 1,505 cases of abuse of children in WA in 2007-08 – 427 of them were carried out by mothers and 155 by fathers.

In other cases in which the gender of the perpetrator was determined, 463 cases were carried out by women and 353 by men.

A comparison with 2005-06 data shows the number of total cases of abuse had risen more than 50 per cent from 960. In 2005-06, mothers carried out 312 acts of abuse and fathers 165.

University of Western Sydney lecturer Micheal Woods said the findings “undermined the myth that fathers were the major risk factor for their children’s wellbeing”.

“While there are some abusive fathers, there are in fact a larger proportion of violent and abusive mothers,” Mr Woods said.

Sunday Herald Sun (Melbourne)
13 September 2009, Page 35

By Laurie Nowell